I thought I’d better tell you a bit about the work I’m doing whilst I’m here because some people who are thinking of volunteering for VSO may think it’s all about moto – riding (it is , of course!) But why do I take all these crazy rides? No! Not just for the fun of it, but so that I can visit schools and see what support Judy and I can give. I’m developing a strategic plan for the next two terms. The academic year here runs from Jan to end of October, teachers take part in training in November, so really the year ends in November.
I have visited several schools which are very remote, but today I visited a school in Muhanga Town where I live and I was very excited because in the Nursery class (3-5year olds) there were pictures and objects around the room which the children had made, the desks were arranged in a little semi circle with a space in the middle where children could take part in active things. The children were so happy, relaxed and smiley, singing and clapping rhythms to learn counting. The teachers were also happy and relaxed, which is brilliant because sometimes teachers are bored and demoralised. I can’t do anything about teachers’ pay (which is abysmal) but I was thinking I could help with job satisfaction and these teachers today proved that if they are interested and enjoying what they are doing it not only benefits the children but them as well. I was very encouraged because last week I went to a school where the nursery classroom was very dark and dismal with earth floors and the children were all sitting in rows silently! (I can’t see that happening in the UK) I want to be able to set up a system where good practice can be shared.
Another school story – When students get to Senior School one of the subjects they are taught is Computer Studies, but as you will guess they often don’t have computers – more than that there is no electricity anywhere near the school or village. So the teachers have an ingenious wooden keyboard which they can use to teach students ‘If you ever get the chance to use a computer, this is what you can do.’ I’ll be fascinated to know if this teaching method works. Some schools have classes at weekend and the school I visited last week has an arrangement with a school where there is electricity – they take their students down to that school on Saturdays and Sundays – (Saturdays for the Catholic children and Sunday for the Seventh Day Adventist children) - all this on top a full weeks work and looking after a family, often walking miles to work and home again. I am in awe at the determination to achieve a better life.
Just one last thing on teachers for the time being – there was a really good teacher of languages at a local school who wanted to continue his studies and because teacher’s pay is so bad he packed in his job and got himself a moto because he can earn more money that way. At the moment I am waiting for him to pick me up and take me to a meeting of headteachers this afternoon. But I feel a little guilty that I should be encouraging him in this way instead of encouraging him to go back to the classroom – but he has got a lovely new bike with brilliant suspension and brand new tyres with tread!!!
Sending my love to you all on the wings of the swallows who will be leaving soon to come to you. Look out for them in May, Tricia xxxx